For applicants to the Post Oak Middle School, admission is selective. Successful candidates will demonstrate responsibility, respect, self-direction, curiosity, and community-mindedness.
When does a child become an adult? According to the law, it happens instantaneously. Parents and educators, though, know that maturity is not just something that happens; it is something that develops. Adolescence is the training ground for this transformation to adulthood.
Independence and a sense of responsibility are two markers of maturity. Middle School students must constantly exercise their executive skills: juggling multiple assignments, keeping track of due dates, and coordinating efforts in group projects. Students gain independence while doing real tasks such as planning a trip airline reservation, calling to make appointments for community service, or writing thank you notes to people who have assisted the community. In the words of one recent graduate: Everyone is motivated to learn, and we encourage each other to be self-directed.
Adolescents want to see their role in everything: they are active doers, not passive watchers or listeners. The Middle School divides its curriculum into units of several weeks in length, each culminating in a group experience in the world outside the classroom. To cap their study of urban civilizations, students conduct a week-long study of the City of Houston, researching current problems or human achievements and then reporting on them through a series of site visits. After studying the history and practice of law, students present a mock trial in an actual courtroom downtown. The study of the fundamental needs of humans culminates in a class trip to the Colorado Plateau region of Arizona to work archeology sites with scientists in the field. The study of government spurs a week-long trip to Washington, DC, where students meet their representative in Congress, sit in on an oral argument in the Supreme Court, and see the Library of Congress.
Community-oriented skills develop outside of the immediate group of teenagers and teachers. Students and staff are committed to weekly community service at different agencies around Houston to emphasize the need to help others, and bring to attention the comfortable modern lifestyles that many have taken for granted. Students also contribute to the daily life of Post Oak, assisting younger students at dismissal, and helping to clean and maintain the library, after school spaces, the gardens, and playgrounds.
The Middle School academic program, grounded in a humanities curriculum, complemented by interdisciplinary studies in math, science, language and social studies uses a Great Books-style seminar approach to helping students deepen their reading and speaking skills as they discuss literature and subject-area texts in small groups. Students concurrently identify real-world interests and entrepreneurial activities that they pursue under the umbrella of “occupations” and “micro-economy” exercising planning and implementation of short and long-term projects over the school year.
Students also study Spanish, art, music and physical fitness. In after-school sports, the Post Oak Bearkats field teams in volleyball, flag football, cross country, track, soccer, and basketball.
The weekly schedule for Middle School students begins to resemble adult life in many respects as students manage their daily responsibilities: attending scheduled lessons, and using a planner to structure their time and prioritize their work as they strive to meet deadlines and standards of excellence.
Life in the Middle School inspires intellectual curiosity while giving opportunity and instruction to develop 21st Century skills – work, creativity, ethics, resilience, curiosity, and time management. The students’ work is practical, hands-on and real-world – as well as academic. As one graduate said at an Alumni Voices event, “It seemed like real life rather than just preparing for real life.”
Post Oak's High School.